DEQ, MAWSA staying ahead of toxic TCE plume

Linda Gallagher, Contributing Writer

Photo by Dave Lein

A new 7,500-foot water line now under construction south of Bellaire will provide Pine Brook condominiums with a new source of fresh water from well fields near Shanty Creek. The water line, at a cost of more than $1 million, is being funded through the state's Clean Michigan Initiative.


Courtesy photo

Shown is the current map outlining the path of the area’s toxic TCE plume from its origins at a long closed manufacturing facility to its most recent known location. 


REGION – In December of last year, Shanty Creek Resorts and more than 600 subdivision property owners got some very good news from Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) – the approaching underground plume of toxic Trichlorethylene (TCE) that has contaminated hundreds of private water wells since its discovery in 1999 appeared to be turning.

Instead of continuing on the northwestern path it had followed – since degreaser containing the toxic carcinogen used by a manufacturing facility on the southern edge of Mancelona had been dumped years ago onto the ground – the plume appeared to be taking more of a westerly path, where far fewer residences are located.

That also meant the Mancelona Area Water and Sewer Authority's Cedar River Well Field – located just a couple of hundred feet north of the plume's path – was safe from the plume. Water from those wells provide fresh water to hundreds of additional homes east of Shanty Creek Road with already contaminated water wells.

But that didn't mean everyone could breathe a sigh of relief. More than 60 homes between the intersection of Shanty Creek Road and Deskin Road (where the plume was last pinpointed), and M-88, including Shanty Creek's Pine Brook condominiums, are now in the plume's path.

That led a frustrated Pete Bigford, CEO of Shanty Creek Resorts, to make a call to the DEQ earlier this year.

"We have had problems with iron bacteria in the two water wells at Pine Brook for many years," Bigford said last week. "The water looked bad and tasted bad. We get constant calls and complaints about it."

Efforts to correct the problem using a variety of treatments failed over the years, he noted.

"We even dug new wells – but nothing worked," Bigford said.

Discussions with Janice Adams, senior geologist of the Remediation and Redevelopment Division in Gaylord, resulted in a plan to provide the condominiums with a new source of fresh water from well fields near Shanty Creek via a 7,500-foot water line.

The $1,054,419.94 water line, now under construction, is being funded through the state's Clean Michigan Initiative.

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